Growing herbs commercially

‘Oh, I’d love to grow herbs for a living!’ I hear that a lot. And yes, it’s true that demand is growing all the time, especially for organically grown herbs of guaranteed quality. It’s also true that plenty of popular foreign herbs – like Echinacea or even liquorice, for example – can be grown here with good modern technology to back them up. Farmers need to diversify, and herbs are certainly an option worth pursuing.

But you also need a good business head, and the commitment to produce reliable quantities of consistently good quality, year after year after year. Producers of herbal products, from simple tinctures to complicated formulae and carefully worked out supplements, require nothing less. When I started in practice – over twenty-five years ago! – most of our supplies were grown in Eastern Europe, where labour was cheap and regulations not too stringent, and there was only one company producing tinctures for practitioners to prescribe. Now, things have changed beyond recognition. There are plenty of suppliers to choose from, and standards are much higher. And that’s a good thing.

Here in southern France, we went to visit a lavender oil distillery yesterday, only to find that it had gone out of business. I’ve seen a lot of growers come and go over the years, and the ones that stay the course are the ones that choose their herbs according to demand, and work to meet market requirements. It can be done, and the more people who do it, the better. Good luck!

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